Substitute any number you want for 40, and this is still a sentiment you hear and read all the time …

  • Teenagers who think they’re too young to be “real” authors
  • Mid-career professionals who think they can’t be writers because they missed out on the requisite education and early job experiences
  • Senior citizens who think they’re too old to write or don’t have a voice that would be relevant to readers

Some of these folks might have legitimate fears about taking the plunge — it can be scary to try something new no matter how old you are.

But, really, not writing the novel that’s been trapped in your head for as long as you can remember just because your odometer has clicked off a certain number is nothing but an excuse.

It’s a crutch to lean on, a plate of comfort food in the face of possible failure.

If you want to write … write! No matter how old you are, if you have a story to tell and can drag your body to the keyboard to bang out your tale, it’s not too late.

The same thing goes for young authors, too. If you can do it, and want to do it, then do it.

Too Old? Really?

Lest you think this is all theoretical babble, here are 11 famous authors who got later starts (list courtesy of 11Points):

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, first published at age 65
  • Henry Miller (44)
  • Anthony Burgess (40)
  • Frank McCourt (66)
  • Bram Stoker (50)
  • George Eliot (40)
  • Alex Haley (44)
  • William S. Burroughs (40)
  • Sherwood Anderson (50)
  • Richard Adams (52)
  • O. Henry (42)

Too Young? Really?

And, just for good measure, here are some prodigies you might recognize (via mental_floss):

  • Mary Shelley (20)
  • Percy Shelley (18)
  • Alexander Pope (21)
  • S.E. Hinton (18)
  • Bret Easton Ellis (21)

Only Death

Granted, these are all exquisite talents, and your chances of matching their successes are pretty low. But that would be the case no matter when you started your journey. And you’ll never know until you try.

Also granted, you’ll have a lot to learn about the writing and publishing processes, and that can be daunting. You probably haven’t been in a classroom for several years, after all, and you might even be a bit tech-phobic. It’s hard to do anything these days without a healthy dose of technology, and that goes for growing a novel from idea to finished product.

But you have a lifetime of experience to lean on, and you have that glorious book burning a hole in your brain.

If you don’t write it, no one will.

If you don’t write it, you’ll die with your story untold.

Only then will it be too late.